Daily Archives: September 10, 2008

Reminder: (e-Sourcing, e-Procurement, and e-Supply Chain) RFP Help Is Here

I wanted to remind you that, I as indicated last month during the summer slumber, you can find RFP Help Here. When trying to piece together an RFP for your new e-sourcing, e-procurement, or e-supply chain solution, you’ll need to navigate a minefield filled with fine-print, unnecessary and useless features, maintenance and upgrade charges, and extraneous user licenses (thrown in to produce an artificially-low “per license” price) — not to mention enticing offers involving long-term commitments that you absolutely should not be making. As outlined in What Does the doctor Do … For You, one of the services I offer is RFx Construction Help, including, if necessary, a full blown Needs Assessment.

As I have indicated many times in my X-emplification series, my X-asperation series, and in various RFx posts, including Don’t Put the Cart Before the Horse, you should never — ever — use an RFI or RFP “template” from a vendor when going out to bid, regardless of what the solution is for. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t download them and look at them, but it’s unwise to use them or base your RFx upon them. For example, the Ariba RFP template for an RFx solution consists of page after page of feature-focused questions like “does the product integrate with Business Objects”, “please list your best practice event templates”, and “does the product qualify new suppliers” — the answers to which are most likely of no use to you. Not everyone uses Business Objects, and, more importantly, if the product is good, shouldn’t it be self-contained? If you’re in food service, you don’t give a hoot about best practice templates for petro-chemical manufacturing. Furthermore, an automated tool can never qualify a supplier — only an intelligent human can.

The usefulness of a vendor RFP template for a software solution is usually limited to the headings on the functionality pages, which can help you to identify features commonly found in that solution category. For example, looking at Ariba’s proposed RFP for an RFx solution, you can be pretty confident that RFx solutions might have some type of navigation, integration support for third party systems, project management capability, supplier tracking, survey creation, reporting, RFx creation, and auction event-management capabilities — and, more specifically, that the features available from Ariba will match the questions perfectly! But that’s all you can tell. You don’t know if the features mesh in such a way to provide the actual functionality you need, or whether the whole RFP is completely off base with respect to what you’re trying to accomplish. You need to ask use-case-based questions that reflect your business and your normal operating procedures. For example, is the reporting module included with the RFx system, or is it an added-cost item? Is the solution a tar baby of interrelated modules, such that you can’t really buy one without springing for all the others, in order to get the “complete” functionality? Has the vendor focused on eye-candy gee-whiz features, to the detriment of core functionality that you’ll really need?

RFx software itself is great example of what should be a mature, smoothly-working technology. eRFx has been around for 10+ years — so it’s easy to reason that surely every vendor has to have gotten it right by now. None of the analysts or major commentators in our space even question this point. Yet, I’m aware of recent RFx efforts using “mature” technology that have nearly failed due to very basic software limitations.

As per my last post, I believe that I am in a unique position to help, given my dual background in technology and sourcing/procurement. I am able to work with you to:

  • understand what you need and do a proper Needs Assessment
  • put together an RFx that outlines the important functionality you really need, not simply produce an exhaustive list of useless features
  • review the initial RFx responses and help you identify the follow-up questions that you need to ask
  • review a potential contract in order to identify:
    • unnecessary modules
    • missing functionality
    • missing cost definitions (so you don’t get burned later on)
    • and other potential weaknesses
  • if necessary, help you select a third party to assist with implementation or associated services

So if you need help with that needs assessment, RFx, or contract, e-mail me at any time at thedoctor <at> sourcinginnovation <dot> com.

Note to anyone who doesn’t understand category tagging: yes, this is an advertisement.